Security Special Section
Beyond Your School's Lockdown Plan
- By Ellen Kollie
- June 1st, 2016
PHOTO © MARK COFFEY
It has been quite the process, but your school’s lockdown plan is
complete, and you’re breathing a sigh of relief. Are you ready for this?
Once your school’s lockdown plan is finalized, you can’t simply check
it off your “to do” list and file it in a drawer. In fact, it’s safe to argue
that creating the plan is just the beginning. In addition to understanding
that your lockdown plan needs to be updated annually, here are six
other things else you need to know once it’s complete.
1. STAFF TRAINING SHOULD BE ONGOING.
Twice a year, administrators in the Boise School District (BSD)
in Idaho and their first responders engage staff in lockdown drills.
“We have a saying around here,” says Mike Munger, BSD Safety
and Security manager. “‘Is the water getting all the way to the end
of the row?’ When it comes to staff training, we want to be sure
everyone is learning what’s being taught.”
The best indicator that the water is getting all the way to the
end of the row is via testing at the end of training. “We want to
make sure staff understands and executes lockdown plans well,”
says Munger. “So testing indicates either the good news that everything
went well or the bad news that we have a lot more that needs
to be done in terms of getting people the information.”
The BSD team clearly understands that lockdown plans can’t
gather dust in a filing cabinet. They know those plans include regular
training, and that means consistently and repetitively offered
instruction and simulation. Book learning is important, but follow
through with application of that knowledge allows staff a better
idea of what to expect during a lockdown, the ability to identify
weaknesses, the ability to clarify something that may have seemed
gray or unimportant, and the opportunity to build confidence.
“The important component is practice to know that what you’re
training is being effectively delivered,” Munger affirms. “That’s the
bottom line for most everything we’re doing.”
Finally, training can, and should, be reinforced in brief written
communication. For example, you may include tips or reminders in weekly staff announcements or via a
monthly safety and security newsletter.
2. DRILLS SHOULD BE
CONDUCTED AS MANDATED.
The ability to safely and efficiently
address a hazardous situation — whether
a fire, an intruder or a natural disaster —
helps save lives. But its success relies on the
people and protocols in place. Therefore,
regardless of which recommended lockdown
system a school uses, drills should be
practiced on a regular basis, as mandated
by state law. All staff — even substitutes
and support personnel — and students
must be trained on procedures to ensure
that everyone knows exactly what do and
where to go in the case of an emergency.
Consider, too, the possibility of having
each class review drills after the fact. This
offers a platform for students to clarify terminology
(What’s the difference between a lockdown
and a reverse lockdown?) and “what if”
scenarios. Teachers can forward information
gleaned to the safety and security team with
the goal of improving the process.
3. LOCKDOWN PROCEDURES
SHOULD BE REGULARLY EVALUATED.
Change is constant. For instance,
schools undergo renovations. Similarly,
safety guidelines are updated based on
best practices and new information so that
they’re focused on the reliable and proven.
For example, where a system of codes
used to be employed to indicate situations,
administrators are now taught to announce
the situation as it is. Similarly, In March
2015, the Ohio Revised Code was revised to
state that, if a school has smoke detectors
or a sprinkler system in all classrooms,
then fire drills conducted during the school
year may be reduced from nine to six.
Therefore, it’s critical to evaluate your
lockdown procedures on a regular basis,
making changes and enhancements to
ensure information is timely and relevant.
“We recommend that schools reevaluate
their crisis planning on an annual
basis,” says Dr. Ronald Stephens, executive
director of Westlake Village, Calif.-based
National School Safety Center, which serves
as an advocate for safe, secure and peaceful
schools worldwide and as a catalyst for the
prevention of school crime and violence.
“You could also make the statement to do
it on an ongoing basis, because it is a living
document. But generally it’s reasonable and
appropriate to evaluate your procedures on
an annual basis.”
The same team who worked to create the
procedures should be involved in the review,
especially the principal at the school level
and the superintendent at the district level, but also including first responders.
In the process, shy away from new, though well intended,
technologies that are still untested to avoid the potential risk they
may pose building occupants. And Stephens adds to be sure to put
together a mutual aid agreement that identifies roles and responsibilities
of all who are involved in crisis management.
Upon completion of the review, be sure to clearly and thoroughly
communicate any changes made to administration, staff,
teachers and students, using a variety of communication tools,
such as your Website (community) and intranet (staff and teachers),
email (parents), and verbal (during both staff training and
student PA announcements). Be sure to include bus drivers in your
communication, Stephens advises, “as they need to understand
the pick up and drop off options and have some familiarity with
potential reunification points.”
4. KEEP PHYSICAL ASSETS IN GOOD REPAIR VIA REGULARLY SCHEDULED
MAINTENANCE, AND REPLACE OR UPGRADE WHEN NECESSARY.
Schools’ needs are always greater than their budgets. A maintenance
program helps ensure that each building’s physical assets
stay in good working order and last their intended life spans,
thereby preventing or even eliminating deferred maintenance
challenges. To that end, Computerized Maintenance Management
System (CMMS) software is vital to a successful maintenance program
in that it provides an accurate record of all physical assets,
ensures the ability to schedule and track maintenance tasks, and
provides a historical record of the work performed.
Beyond maintenance, there are times when physical assets
naturally wear out or safer, more durable products become available,
and replacement is required. For instance, many administrators
are replacing standard door knobs with security locks on
classroom doors for greater security.
“Having good people and good plans are built on a foundation
of people being able to execute those plans,” Munger affirms.
“If you have door systems that don’t work, your people won’t be
able to effectively manage an incident, should one occur.” He
adds that it’s easy to throw money at a problem and not think
through whether it’ll be operationally effective for your school,
so he advocates for a well thought-out plan that works within
the confines of the equipment you do have and ensuring that the
equipment is kept up to specification, as well as up and running
throughout normal daily operations.
5. KEEP TECHNOLOGY IN GOOD REPAIR VIA REGULARLY
SCHEDULED MAINTENANCE, AND UPGRADE WHEN NECESSARY.
Walkie talkies, PA systems (both internal and external), panic
buttons, video cameras, visitor management software. All of
these valuable tools must be kept in good working order so they
are ready to assist at a moment’s notice in a lockdown situation.
Be sure they are maintained on a schedule commensurate with the manufacturers’ recommendations so minor problems can be
discovered and addressed before they become major issues. If you
haven’t already, be sure to add them to your CMMS.
In a similar vein, there are times when technology needs to
be upgraded, maybe because something is faulty, maybe because
the technology has improved. When the time comes, gather data
and facts, which will carry some weight as you advocate for the
upgrade in a budget-constrained environment, and remind all
decision makers of the main agenda: keeping students safe. As already
mentioned, use caution when upgrading, avoiding untested
technologies which, simply because they haven’t proven themselves
by standing the test of time, may pose more risk than benefit
in the even of a lockdown.
6. MAINTAIN EFFECTIVE WORKING RELATIONSHIPS WITH FIRST RESPONDERS.
All lockdown plans should be created and periodically reviewed
in coordination with local first responders. “We need them
during our development and planning phases,” says Munger. “If
we don’t include them then, we’ve missed a huge opportunity to
make sure our plans are effective and will respond to what they
imagine will happen when they respond to a threat in a school.”
Once development and planning is done, effective working
relationships should be maintained. As Munger says, “I do not
want to be exchanging business cards with local first responders in
Consider regularly scheduled meetings, designed to discuss
changes, future plans, ongoing trends and changes in industry
standards at a high level. BSD conducts these meetings with all local
agencies on a quarterly basis. “Where the rubber meets the road
is with weekly meetings at the local building level,” says Munger.
“Sometimes there are even daily meetings for school resource officers:
What’s going on today? And certainly, the more face time there
is between school administrators and first responders, the better that
relationship becomes, the more they’re are able to trust each other,
the more they know what each party brings to the table and the more
they know what to expect if a situation does break lose.”
Because no two schools are the same, there are no one-size-fits-all lockdown plans. Rather, they must be customized to each
school’s specific physical environment and first responders’ capabilities,
with the intent of minimizing the spread of violence and
increasing the safety of students, employees and visitors. Beyond
the lockdown plan, there’s still constant, ongoing effort required to
ensure the plan works as intended. “It’s quite the team operation,”
This article originally appeared in the June 2016 issue of School Planning & Management.